There is one goal for the San Diego Padres in 2023.
Anything less than a World Series title will be viewed as a disappointment. The team is built to win now.
Presently, the Padres need help with their starting rotation. Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish represent a positive top of the rotation, but the last few spots are shaky at best. Then, you need to factor in that the Padres are considering utilizing a six-man rotation early in the 2023 season.
Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, Adrian Morejon, Ryan Weathers, Jay Groome, and Brent Honeywell will compete for a spot in the rotation during the spring. Reiss Knehr, Wilmer Font, Julio Teheran, Miguel Cienfuegos, and Michel Baez have an outside chance to earn a rotation spot as well. Martinez and Morejon are arguably the most palatable of this grouping of pitchers. Lugo was signed to compete for a starting job but has never had success pitching in that role.
If Morejon, Martinez, and Lugo made up the end of the rotation, there would be uncertainty. Nick Martinez can throw in this role, but you get a sense that the Padres prefer utilizing him as a long man out of the bullpen who can pitch in a setup role. Morejon has tremendous upside with his magical arm. Durability has always been an issue for him, though, and the Padres would wisely monitor his total innings in 2023.
There are whispers that the Padres want to stay below the next luxury tax threshold to begin the season. They may go over their budget but would only do it for a player worth making that kind of investment. If Bryan Reynolds, for example, was attained by the Padres at an inexpensive rate, they would gladly pay the extra penalties.
On the free agent market, only a few pitchers are serviceable at the end of a rotation. Michael Wacha and Zack Greinke headline the list of available pitchers, but either pitcher would be a question mark to produce in 2023 in all reality. Trevor Bauer is available for the league minimum, but the Padres would not go down that road. Beyond them, names like Joe Ross, Mike Minor, Michael Pineda, Chris Archer, and Aaron Sanchez don’t provide confidence to a team with World Series ambitions.
If the Padres want to upgrade the rotation, there is only one answer. They must make a trade.
The Marlins were a likely trade partner as Miami was full of young pitchers and has more on the way. However, the Marlins dealt Pablo Lopez last week to the Twins and don’t seem to have the same urgency they once had to make a deal. A trade with Miami may still be possible, as Jesus Luzardo is an attractive trade target for the Padres. He would be costly, though, as the young southpaw is under contract for the next three seasons.
There are a few other teams who may explore dealing a starting pitcher. Minnesota could deal Sonny Gray before the spring, as the veteran is due for free agency at the end of 2023 and will likely explore a deal elsewhere. The Padres acquired Sean Manaea last season from the A’s as Spring Training began, strengthening the rotation. Preller and his staff are likely looking for that same kind of deal this spring.
You can never predict what the Padres are doing with their roster. They could stand pat with the rotation, or they could go nuts and make a blockbuster deal before Opening Day. Anything can happen. If I were a betting man, I would put money down that the Padres will make another deal for a starting pitcher. You get a sense that they aren’t done building this roster.